Jan 25, 2005
Torture seems to have become a tool of state for the U.S. Why? If torture is not unplanned, what purpose does it serve?
It is usually assumed that prisoners are tortured to make them relinquish information. However, that is hardly an adequate explanation; military intelligence officers estimated to the Red Cross that 70 to 90 percent of the prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison were held by mistake. Torture is not simply for gathering information. There is a larger sense in which torture fits into the grand narrative of the “war on terror.”
In last year’s election campaign we were reminded that images can overpower words. The U.S. military prohibited the taking of pictures of flag-draped coffins arriving from Iraq even as it freely shared statistics on the number of American dead. It knows that the images are more powerful than the numbers. Digital photographs from Abu Ghraib prison provoked an outcry that written complaints were unable to elicit.
Is Alberto Gonzales qualified to be attorney general of the United States? By some measures, yes. The man who hopes to become the first Latino to occupy that office rose from humble origins to graduate from Harvard Law School and to serve as a justice of the Texas Supreme Court and as Texas secretary of state. He was chosen 1992 Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas and 1999 Latino Lawyer of the Year. Alberto Gonzales is the American dream come true.
In 1994 Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager in Kigali, Rwanda, risked his life to help save more than 1,200 men, women and children from the ethnic cleansing that wiped out nearly 1 million Rwandans in 100 days. Through this true story Hotel Rwanda tells the story of the genocide in Rwanda. Directed and co-written by Terry George (Some Mother’s Son), the film is designed as a cinematic wagging finger, shaming the world in general and the West in particular for having done nothing while innocents were butchered in the streets.
The leader of the Western world stands before his compatriots and outlines a list of atrocities allegedly committed by a demonic and militaristic Muslim power. He warns that even more horrendous crimes are imminent, perhaps this time to be committed on home soil. Sketching the conflict as a battle of good against evil, he calls for a preemptive strike against the foe.